Sonny Rollins, thematic improvisation and the subconscious

Thanks to Joan Vicens (see video below), Gunther Schuller and others for their insights into Sonny Rollins’ approach to thematic improvisation.

N.B. this transcription is for instruments in Bb.


But Rollins has said: ‘When I get on the stage, I don’t think. I sort of let the subconscious take over. That’s what it’s all about … I surprise myself, occasionally, with something that might come out that is striking. I don’t really think about whatever else is happening. It just happens.’ See Levy 2014 for thoughts on the subconscious and conscious mind.

More on Schuller and Rollins


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